January 2009

Food and Food: Edmonton31 Jan 2009 10:39 am

I have a confession.

I have not gone for dim sum since that wonderous experience at China House at the Oriental hotel in Bangkok almost a year ago. (I choose to ignore the half eaten remains we abandoned after ‘dining’ at a low rent dim sum chain late on our last night in Bangkok. Ugh.)

There was a time when Mike and I used to visit dim sum establishments biweekly, or at least monthly.

My lack of dim sum consumption is not because I do not like dim sum. It’s because I do not like Edmonton’s dim sum options.

At the risk of sounding like a food snob, I just can’t get into our dim sum. I’ve enjoyed my meals at Cha for Tea Palace (17512 Stony Plain Road, Edmonton) but do not pine for it weekly as I do China House.

While Edmonton has a large Chinese population, we really seem to lack any type of haute Chinese cuisine. I’d kill to eat good Sizchuan, or to be able to order tender, fresh, flavourful dumplings from a cart. The difference is not in missing obscure Chinese ingredients like sea cucumber or various forms of offal. While I have enjoyed those, it’s not what keeps me returning.  My interest is merely in fresh, well composed ingredients. Edmonton is just lacking in restauranteurs willing to source these ingredients, I suppose. Or perhaps it’s a problem of geographical location. I don’t know. But I do know many other cities that provide much better dim sum options.

In any case, I had been avoiding Mike’s requests to eat dim sum for some time, but finally caved and went just after New Years Day.

Mike, two friends and I decided to visit Noodle Noodle (10008 106 Avenue, Edmonton) in downtown Edmonton. After a sad visit for dinner a few years ago, I wasn’t expecting much. Maybe that’s why my experience was actually…good.

Not stellar, but there were some highlights. The kai-lan (chinese broccoli) was crunchy and verdant. Little was limp or over cooked: except for the rice noodle rolls, which were crispy and delicious, almost caramelized due to their “over cooking” – which will be requested next time. The dishes balanced savoury and sweet well, and most things were piping hot.

A mistake: the Sizchuanese pepper chicken.  It was not made with Sizchuan pepper, and the “pepper” that was on top was just on top, not distributed well. Will not order again.

Service was helpful and fast despite the crowds of diners, and included the obligatory grannies trying to guilt you into buying their cart items. Our bill came to about $80 for the 4 of us, including a few specialty items that cost $7.

The next time I partake in dim sum might be in Las Vegas, but if I ever had to go to another in Edmonton, Noodle Noodle would probably fit the bill, especially if I was not eager to drive to the west end to Cha for Tea.

I don’t think my waistline misses the biweekly dim sum visits, though.

Food and Food: Home Cookin' and work (kinda)30 Jan 2009 09:12 am

At work, it seems I am always eating. From the “lighten up candy” served up 24/7 in the business section, cooking experiments I bring in for my favourite coworker to snack upon, or trying something new which we receive to sample. Nougat, noodles, teas, St Viateur bagels, I’m always eating.

I have long been wanting to order bagels from the famous St Viateur in Montreal. However, they only ship in multiples of 72. I couldn’t fathom getting that many, or even finding enough people to share them with. And what if they weren’t even good?

Although the website tells you to store them pre-sliced in the freezer until ready to toast, I suspected that the bagels might lose their trademark crisp chewiness after sitting overnight in a plastic bag in a shipping box. The chewiness comes from being poached (in honey water, which adds the distinctive sweet taste) and the crisp bite from being wood-fired. It is highly coveted. It is the true essence of a Montreal bagel.

One of our writers is doing a piece on bagels coming up soon, and ordered a box to sample. When it came time to photograph the famous bagels, the bag was “left behind” for “someone to enjoy.” THAT SOMEONE WAS ME.

I inhaled the one we cut for the photo right there at work. It was still a bit cold, and I was not impressed. The chewiness was there, but the crispness from being wood-fired WAS mostly gone. All that was left was a doughy, slightly sweet mass. Still better than the wheels of wheat we get here though. Bagels are one instance where size does not matter and Albertan bagels are mammoth.

However, I brought them home and toasted them, applied cream cheese and they recovered slightly. I’m not sure I’d spend the almost $100 for the bagels and overnight shipping though. I guess it depends how hard I’m jonesing. I will be sure to eat many the next time I visit Montreal however.

Food and Food: Home Cookin'29 Jan 2009 08:02 am

So, what did I do with that kilo of corn tortillas from Las Tortillas in Calgary?

Well, first of all, there were many many tortillas. I think a kilo was about 30 tortillas.

On one hand I was sad I only got a kilo, but on the other hand, our freezer is full of moose and deer right now. There is no room at the inn. I wrapped the ones I didn’t want to use in Saran in sets of four, then in tinfoil, then in a bag and wedged them between backstrap and tenderloin in the freezer.

I decided to do tostadas with the rest! They are basically open faced tacos. You fry the tortillas after letting them air dry for a half hour or so…

Make sure the oil is super hot, so the tortillas do not get greasy and rubbery. You want them crisp and snappy, like chips. It should also be deep enough for the tortilla to float.

The air drying may seem unnecessary, but it is important with fresh tortillas. Ones from the store are a bit more leathery and can be fried from the bag.

Then you spread them with a layer of warm black beans.

I fried up an onion, garlic and some chipotle chili powder, then added a can of black beans and simmered until thickened in a small pot. You could use them right from the can, I suppose.

Then a layer of chicken, topped with my version of crema. I thinned sour cream with lime juice and milk to make a sauce of sorts. The next day I added Cholula brand sauce.

Finally, a coarsely chopped mix of tomatoes and onions and jalapeno in a sort of pico de gallo.

Chop some romaine lettuce, whisk some olive oil and cider vinegar together, pour over lettuce, and add that to the top. I sprinkled on avocado, cilantro and radish as well, with a topping of old cheddar.

I cannot emphasize enough how fast, easy and fresh these were. The toppings can be customized to be whatever you like, really. Vegetarian, steak, fish are all viable options. We ate these for three days in a row for dinner, alternating with Mexi-spiced steak one night.

Their downfall? I’m not sure if they really hold up to being eaten the next day, for a work lunch. However, if you fried them and wrapped them in tinfoil, with all the toppings separate, and assembled at lunch that might work.

The fresh tortillas were a world of difference, and I can’t wait to go get some more. Word is there is a place in town that sells them, I’ll have to try those first.

General28 Jan 2009 10:32 am

Not really.

Food and Travels27 Jan 2009 11:38 pm

Again, our trip to Calgary was filled with good friends and food.

I won’t have much to say, but here’s a photo roundup.

Dinner 1: Shikiji
1608 Centre St. N.E., Calgary

Ramen and udon restaurants are popping up all over New York and larger cities at the moment. Calgary is no exception, and although more attention is paid to the Globefish-run Muku, I think that Shikiji is a true gem.

We got a round of tempura (I found some of the items a little under cooked but satisfactorily fresh and light), some choice cuts of sushi and each of us a bowl of noodles. We left stuffed. Shikiji is a must visit on the next trip for some authentic Japanese soups.

Mike’s udon, with quail egg and sauce in beautiful decanter.

The bowls were HUGE.

We got little mini mortar and pestles to grind sesame seeds for our soups.

My miso ramen. It had pork, green onions, corn, bean sprouts in a flavourful miso broth, and some cloud ear mushrooms thrown in. I cannot emphasize how good this was.

We also visited the farmers market at the Currie Barracks. Even in the dead of an Albertan winter, I felt like this market was ages ahead of our decent summer markets. I love it every time I go.

Of course, I stopped in at Phil and Sebastian. My dulce de leche latte is above.

More Than Mangos is a new vendor, I believe. They were peddling somewhat exotic fruits: starfruit, various south american fruits and gooseberries.

This is the stall for Wild About Flowers. Insane selection and great prices. And SO beautiful.

We picked up bagels, a few kinds of tea, ostrich meat, ground sumac berries (which we sampled at Sabzy here in Edmonton) and a few other things like jams and jellies.

Dinner 2: Homemade Oxtail Soup

Jenn made us this treat. You’ve never had a soup as rich, flavourful and hearty as this. There can be nothing more decadent than making a stock out of it, then using it as a base in another soup or stew. YUM.

Of course, cooking in small kitchens is challenging. Well, not really, says the New York Times.

Soldier on!

Pulling the meat from the bones, after hours of simmering.

Enjoying Jenn’s work from large earthenware bowls. We ate it with toasted rye from the farmers market.

Dinner 3: Moose malai gosht with cauliflower in mustard seed sauce, and handmade chapatis

We popped a bottle of champagne just because.

I was the chapati mistress.

Brigette guards her chair.

Jenn guards her tea.

Las Tortillas: 2-4100 Marlborough Drive NE, Calgary

To finish up the trip, I headed to a small simple store in Calgary’s NE sector. I had heard rave reviews on Chowhound about Las Tortillas. They make their own corn tortillas there, and sell them by the kilo. It’s a pretty spartan place, although it seems that they do sell tacos and tostadas during limited hours.

I got one kilo of fresh tortillas. You’ll see what I did with them soon.

Crafts etc15 Jan 2009 10:45 am

I have uploaded the remainder of the Polaroids I have taken in the past few years. It’s interesting to see the nuances of the particular pack of film I was using at the time, in the colours and vividness of the photos. I still have a fair amount left in the fridge, waiting to be used, so I’ll add as I take new shots.

Some favourites:

Dave and Mike at Dave + Jenn’s wedding on Lake Edith in Jasper, 2007.

Connor and Mike at the same wedding. It looks like they are characters in a Western film.

Except for the meter box above their heads and the water bottle to Connor’s right. CURSE MY DRUNKENESS.

Taken on my 29th birthday in Red Rock Canyon west of Las Vegas. I was too shy to ask any hikers to take a photo of me so instead, you get this yucca. It’s a good stand-in.

One of two. There is another one of these floating around out there in the form of a Valentines card that may or may not have made it to its destination. Then may or may not have been tossed in the trash.

Oh, it’s not all bad. The photo is better than the story behind it though.

Anyhow, more photos here.

General13 Jan 2009 12:48 am

Tacos 24 hours

I’m in the process of getting my Polaroids scanned and online! More to come…

Food and Travels12 Jan 2009 05:41 pm

Going to Calgary and its plethora of food options this week. Not exactly exciting news, but it gives me an excuse to post this beautiful copy shot of a bag from the local landmark Peters’ Drive-In. I haven’t been in a few years, but their typeface really gets me going. (Not as much as their shakes though.)

Peters' Drive-In

Credit: Abby at HI + LOW. She’s amazing, and a lady after my own heart.

Food and Food: Edmonton07 Jan 2009 11:04 am

6 days in Las Vegas, and not a single milkshake consumed. I must have been crazy.

On the night it was coldest last week, I felt the undeniable urge to shake it up. I was just getting off the night shift at work, so it was just after 11pm. What was open so late on a weekend? Wendy’s.

At the drive-thru I ordered a new menu item: the shake!

Wendy’s small “hand spun” Vanilla Bean shake, sans cherry

(also available in strawberry and chocolate fudge)

Although I ate the “cherry” (it was a bright red maraschino) seconds out of the drive through lane, I couldn’t deny this was a pretty good looking shake.

I lamented the fact that I had not told them to hold the whip; I have consumed too many oily “from a bag” whip creams in my day. However, when I tasted it I was amazed to find it was REAL WHIP CREAM.

It was extraordinarily thick, and distinctly Frosty based. I had tried a Frosty Float a few months back and was diasspointed. The Frosty shake was amazing.

Although Delux’s Pinocchio-gelato based shake won my heart for some time, I think my go-to shake will be Wendy’s. It’s delicious, widely available, and affordable at $3.29 (I think)

Food and Food: Home Cookin'06 Jan 2009 08:02 am

It must be avocado season, because I noticed that both Safeway and Costco had bumper crops this week, priced quite reasonably.

I grabbed a few that were soft to the touch (patience is a virtue, but not one of mine. I like my avocados ripe) and whipped up some guacamole to snack on.

My recipe is pretty simple, and quite close to Mexican cuisine God Rick Bayless’ “Simple Guacamole” Basically: be a confident cook, have good avocados and good tortilla chips.

The fixin’s for good guac

Crazy White  Girl Guacamole

  • 2 medium avocados (if they are not soft, stuff them in a paper bag with bananas for a day or two)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 to a whole jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced finely
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut avocados in half, circling around the stone. Jab tip of knife into stone and twist to pop out. Cube avocado in it’s skin, then pop out into a bowl. Coarsely mash with a fork, pouring lime juice on top. Add all other ingredients, mixing. Season to taste.

Easy, right? Basically, just know your tastes in guacamole. I sometimes add more lime or jalapeno. Occasionally, in goes green onion or radish, sometimes a bit of cumin. I usually do it chunky-style.

It is best to eat it all as soon as possible, as the avocado oxidizes quickly, even with the help of the lime acidity. Covering with Saran Wrap, pressing down into the guac and storing in an air tight container will help contain the browning. Also, it’s not bad for you, it just don’t look pretty. Spread it on a sandwich or something if it bothers you.

Mike and I devoured our snack with some Que Pasa brand organic corn chips. They are low in salt, so I find them easier to eat; the corners of my mouth don’t hurt as much after eating. I bought these at Costco, but you can also buy them at Sobeys Urban Fresh. Sooooo goooood.

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Food and Food: Home Cookin'05 Jan 2009 10:28 pm

Perhaps you had eggnog, mulled wine, buttered rum or wassail for Christmas. At my house, we had my dad’s margaritas.

Tim’s Blue Margaritas. Also available in “classic”. Both pack a punch. His recipe is pretty top secret, but I know lately it has involved high quality limes and top shelf tequila. Yum!

General03 Jan 2009 10:43 pm

It’s pretty cold here in Edmonton today. -27 degrees celcius, I think.

However, it could always be worse.

saskatoon weather

Plus, you’re in SASKATOON.

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